Friday, August 17, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Falcons practicing shorthanded

Leader sports editor

The North Pulaski football team continues to make progress in most areas of the game, but the team suffered a number of setbacks in personnel over the last couple of weeks. The offense is awaiting MRI results to determine the status of projected starting quarterback Austin Allen. Allen emerged as the starter as summer workouts were winding down, but suffered a knee injury in last Wednesday’s practice.

“He got new cleats and he was wearing them like they came out of the box,” North Pulaski coach Teodis Ingram said. “The cleats that were on them were those ¾ inch cleats, and those are really too long for this dry practice field. He just rolled out and pivoted, and something in there popped. We’re hoping it’s just his meniscus, but we’re waiting to see if it might be an ACL.”

Even a meniscus tear could cause Allen to miss his entire senior season, but some meniscus tears can heal in four to six weeks or sooner. A torn anterior cruciate ligament, though, will sideline any athlete for an entire season and sometimes a whole calendar year or more.

“We’re hoping for the best,” Ingram said. “We’re just waiting to see right now.”

The two starting defensive ends Kaleb Meins and Ashton Nichols have sat out since Wednesday of this week with possible staph infections.

“They haven’t been diagnosed as far as I know right now,” Ingram said on Thursday. “But I told them not to come back until they find out for sure. Staph infection is something that can wipe out a whole team, so you can’t take any chances with that.”

Ingram does detect a difference without those two on the first-team defense in practice.

“They change the dynamics of this defense,” Ingram said. “Their size and presence out there helps us play, and even look, like a 5A football program, so we’re anxious to get them back too.”

Despite the injuries and illnesses, there have been bright spots this week in practice. Ingram said Tuesday’s practice was one of the best since preseason began. Live scrimmaging in Thursday’s practice saw two sophomore defensive linemen shine. Brandon Green and David Jackson made several big plays during live contact drills.

“Those two sophomores have stepped up and I’m pleased with them,” Ingram said. “Green is a guy that could barely get in a stance last year. He’s stuck with it, he’s come out here and worked in our off-season program, lost about 30 pounds and now he’s going to be an asset for us. Jackson has also improved a lot. I’m very proud of those two.”

Steven Farrior has gotten most of the repetitions at quarterback in Allen’s absence. He’s done a good job of running the option, but is raw as a passer.

“He’s quick, he makes pretty good reads, but he’s raw right now,” Ingram said. “He can do it, it’s just going to take him some time. He’s not as strong as Austin but he makes pretty good option reads and he’s a fast athlete. We’re not throwing the ball as well as I’d like us to at this point, and I’d really like to throw the ball and have that option as well. So we’ve still got a lot of work to do.”

The Falcons played their maroon-white scrimmage game last night. They were supposed to be part of a four-team jamboree scrimmage at Joe T. Robinson, but their opponent dropped out. That left just Robinson and Sylvan Hills, both of which are on North Pulaski’s regular-season schedule this year.

“We don’t want to scrimmage anybody that’s on our schedule and neither do they,” Ingram said. “I’ve tried several other teams that don’t have a scrimmage game scheduled, but it doesn’t look like we’re going to be able to play a practice game this year. This will be the first time in all my years of coaching we haven’t played a practice game.”

The Falcons first game is set for Friday, Aug. 31 at JA Fair.